Heliskiing: The Best Way to See the Mountains

December 27, 2013 Katie Burrell

To see the mountains up close can be one of the most breathtaking, jaw-dropping, heart-string-pulling events of life. Although they are beautiful in their own right; terrain features like creeks, lakes and valleys just don’t have that same majesty that a mountain does (sorry to the die-hard kayakers out there). But there is a way to really see a mountain: to see it for what it is, to hear what it has to say, to be a part of what it means.

Photo: Caton Garvie
Photo: Caton Garvie

Sure, that sounds like folklore wilderness hocus-pocus, but if you’ve ever slowed down for long enough out there in the mountains to take a deep breath, you know that you’ve smelled that thing called living. The real question is: how does one do that? Here are the top five ways to see the mountains, is ascending order.

5. Calendars: Go to the mall, hit up one of those holiday calendar kiosks, purchase a calendar called “The Alps,” feel like you’re pretty sure that you’re looking at a Teton – and that is unmistakably a hill in Ontario – have intense remorse at the money that was spent compiling these twelve months of lies and then buy food at the food court: feel worse.

4. The Internet: Google “mountains” – quickly realize that you’re wasting your life.

See anything skiable? Photo: Caton Garvie
See anything skiable? Photo: Caton Garvie

3. Hike: Well done, you’re outside. Look around. Do the breathing stuff that you have always felt is sort of cheesy. Notice that breathing in mountain air is the realest thing you have done in a while (sorry if you’re a regular mountain air breather type and this is offending you). Fall deeply into an endorphin rush and feel your body accelerate. Watch the ground change beneath you, listen to the wind move around you, feel the fresh air wash over you. Sweat. Look around again. Have a moment where you feel like you’re in a shameless lululemmon print ad campaign. Get over it and carry on. You’re in the mountains. It’s normal to start to love yourself.

This is A REAL PLACE. Photo: Dave Silver
This is A REAL PLACE. Photo: Dave Silver

2. Ski and/or ski tour: Up the lifts, down the slopes, up the skin track, down the fall line. Amongst the arc of your turns and the grace of your kick turns (obviously, so simple and easy) you will see the mountains. You will come up and down over different ridges, enter new zones, watch the skylines change and the light dance over the snow and in and out of the rocks and trees. Your nose will be hit with the smell of pine, your thoughts will be quieted by the wind in your ears and your eyes will be treated to the ever changing visuals (just remember to look up).

So is this. Get out there! Photo: Dave Silver
So is this. Get out there! Photo: Dave Silver

1. Go Heliskiing: Of course. This is seeing the mountains at light speed. This is having a helicopter to shoot you across the tops of the trees, over valleys and around peaks. This means that you can and will explore more terrain in one day than you could in an entire season. You will see the sun rise and the sun set in the mountains. You will notice the different colours that the snow takes on at different times of days. You will feel the temperature change, the wind blow, the sun move. You will sit with your face pressed against the window (not too hard in case of emergency window) and watch the mountains roll away. You will zoom over glaciers, through gullies, and blast up over ridges; to drop over the other side and soar through the limitless terrain and be placed on the top of a run of untouched, bottomless powder. Then…you’ll ski it. The snow will come up over your knees, shimmy up to your hips, and as you gain speed, blow up over your shoulders and dance around your head. You’re floating, dancing; you’re not just seeing the mountains. You have become a part of them.

That little unit right there will open up a whole new way of seeing the mountains. Photo: Randy Lincks
That little unit right there will open up a whole new way of seeing the mountains. Photo: Randy Lincks

Hocus pocus wilderness folklore on, young jedi.